Bill Dodson

Scandals seem to be hitting foreign enterprises more than ever. Partly because Chinese authorities on a local level apply double standards, tells China watcher Bill Dodson on his weblog.

Bill Dodson:

A Western electronics manufacturer told me he recently visited a Chinese domestic factory that used lead in its manufacturing processes. “You could literally see the lead in the air!” he exclaimed. I had never seen lead in the air, and didn’t know it was possible.

“Oh sure,” he said, “it’s red. You can see the stuff floating red in the air.” He added, “The owner of the Chinese factory asked me about safety measures to control lead emissions. He was clueless. That’s because inspectors call him the day before to tell him they’re coming over; he cleans up the place, reduces production capacity; then pays them off. They’re all happy.”

The GM told me that in his country the inspectors show up announced at factories to perform safety and environmental audits. “I’ve even seen them waiting in cars near the factory site, watching how the plant handled waste.” Fines in the United States and Western Europe, as well, tend to be prohibitively expensive relative to the amounts Chinese transgressors must pay.

In the case of Johnson Controls in the Shanghai municipality, the company has chosen to fight the local administration’s findings. Few if any of the surrounding battery makers have been told to shut down. The provenance of the lead effluence is questionable, as all the companies in the area except Johnson dump their waste into local waterways that eventually make their way to a central water processing facility.

The GM in Jiangsu province told me that residential sites encroached into the industrial zone a couple years before, against zoning regulations. “Now,” the GM told me, “there are residences within 500 meters of those battery factories.”

“Johnson Controls is fighting the ruling on principal,” the Jiangsu GM told me. “We work with those guys sometimes, and so we know they reach for the highest levels of waste management. “

More on Bill Dodson’s weblog.
Bill Dodson is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need him at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch or fill in our speakers’ request form.

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